On Wednesday January 16 around 4pm Bayer Munich put its low traffic twitter account on spotlight when officially announcing the signing of Pep Guardiola as new manager of the Bavarian club as of July 2013. The news of the new destination chosen by successful Catalan manager got spread immediately on the net and social networks –Bayern Munich recruited 3.000 new twitter followers in just 3 minutes- and the following Guardiola´s arrival to Bayern was in the cover page of most prestigious international sport papers, possibility at reach only on an extraordinary event of the such as winning a UEFA Champions League.
At first sight, Guardiola’s signing may appear to be one more football decision in search for a pitch results turn around, since Bayern has not won the Bundesliga for 2 consecutive years and lifted its last Champions League trophy in San Siro 11 years ago.
In fact, everything else is apparently great at Bayern Munich. On one side, its 2011/12 season results where the best in 112 club history with 332mio€ in revenues and 11mio€ in profits; on the other side, its showcase stadium –Allianz Arena- sells out every single game with a 99% occupation ratio. Moreover, Bayern is most popular team in Germany concentrating 22% of fans, doubling those of Borussia Dortmund and has an astonishing membership base of more than 190,000; and plays at one of the most successful leagues, the Bundesliga, which has highest average attendance per game in Europe (42,101 per game at season 2011/12) and makes yearly revenues of more than 1,9bio€, ahead of Spanish La Liga and Italian Serie A and only behind of English Premier League.
And if we also take into account that Bayern has won 5 of the last 10 German leagues and that its current squad has a market value close to 450mio€, what else could you ask for apart from winning again the Bundesliga and the Champions League?
The answer is the world. In fact, the data that we just reviewed, theoretically ideal, are mainly based on Bayern’s domination of German football market and the power of the country economy, but hide the greatest weakness of the club from Munich: its difficulty to win the love of the fans around the world and as a result to achieve relevant income outside Germany.
Indeed, if we have a look at the 10 most strategic markets in the world, we will realize that Bayern Munich is not among favorite teams of fans in any of them. In a table monopolized by FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United, Bayern achieves its best result in France, with just 4% of fans choosing the Germans as their favorite foreign team and in a disappointing 7th position. Bayern weakness –relative to the rest of top teams- shows up also in its level of popularity at social networks. As an example, it has only 5,8 million fans on facebook, far behind 39,4 of Barça or 35,2 of Real Madrid.
Something similar happens to Bundesliga when compared to other big European leagues, as it is placed only in 4th position in terms of interested football fans around the world (520 million), far from 1.191, 878 and 663 million that follow Premier League, la Liga and Serie A respectively. In reality, German domestic competition is among top 3 most followed leagues only in Spain –thanks to Raul having played for Shalke- and in Japan, due to the amount of Japanese players in squads of participant teams.
As of the revenues, although strong domination of German footbal market has driven Bayern Munich consolidation in the 4th position of revenues ranking that is yearly published by Deloitte consultancy firm, the difficulty of Bavarian team to connect with foreign fans had not made possible so far to challenge the top 3 positions. Actually, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona –which along with Manchester United have monopolized revenues podium for the last 6 years- have even grown at a higher speed than Bayern, of course thanks to their globalization determination. In this sense, it is remarkable that 88% of main sponsors of German team are still domestic brands, as opposed to 15%, 38% and 43% of red devils, “merengues” and Catalans respectively.
Under these circumstances, the signing of Pep Guardiola as team manager offers, as Bayern top executives know well, an unprecedented opportunity to at last globalize the Bayern brand and to achieve that football fans from Japan, China or Brasil decide to wear the shirt of legendary German team instead of the one from Barça or Real Madrid.
Indeed, Guardiola’s arrival brings along an unlimited number of strategic, commercial and sporting opportunities. First of all, Bayern achieves a well thought “barcelonization” impact in its positioning, since former FC Barcelona legendary player and manager has had a pivotal role on Catalan club pitch success of recent years. This will allow to merge club image of hardness and strength with attributes and values that Guardiola will be bringing along, such as prioritizing grassroots players, effort culture, teamwork and offensive play style.
Furthermore, Guardiola’s presence will definitely boost Bayern chances to recruit the best players in the world, attracted by the chance to learn and win alongside with Pep and, why not, even to hire them under more favorable financial conditions.
And of course all of this should translate into an increase in the international TV audiences of Bayern matches, with subsequent improvement on the advertising value generated and the potential sponsors market.
Bundesliga also cheers on Pep’s arrival and club marketing executives get ready to say at home that from now on there will be much more business trips and they will more often arrive late from work. There new and intensive to-do-list will include, along with many other activities, recruitment of members and fans outside Germany (with Spain top in the list), the increased search of sponsors in overseas markets and the organization of international tours with higher match fees. In addition, they may well consider –in case of not having done so already- acquiring the personal image rights of their new team manager, even if it may not be an easy job. And that is because we should expect new potential personal endorsers queuing-up, among which we may well find sports brand Adidas, that strongly dominates German football (including the ownership of 10% of Bayern Munich shares), that would be delighted to steal from Nike the sponsorship of the best manager of the world in 2011.
It is therefore clear that the signing of Guardiola goes far beyond recuperating Bundesliga tittle or lifting again the Champions League trophy. It brings in reality the opportunity to conquer the world. Why not possible with Pep on board and a UEFA Champions League victory not far in time?